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Saturday, April 19, 2014

This Week In Stupid

There are a multitude of legitimate arguments to made against the idea of Hillary Rodham Clinton becoming preznit of these here Untied States [sic]. Not one of them is that she will be a grandmother this time next year.

I know we're supposed to agree -- and I think we all really do agree -- that this sort of Entertainment Tonight type of newz burbling should be instantly marginalized. It's completely unacceptable outside the Hoda 'n' Kathie Lee gettin'-yer-swerve-on housewife porn that afflicts the teevee Morning Zoo shows.

While this gentle bloggery will most likely not be in operation come the benighted Year of Our Bored 2016, you can see some of the reasons why right here and now. For one, I despise, right down to the cellular level, the prospect of Hillary! versus Jeb! being presented as some sort of legitimate choice, that that is the best this nation can do. And that probably north of two billion dollars will be expended in the investiture of one of these toadying dynastic creatures, that there is an entire industry set up to legitimize the installation of whoever manages to give Shelly Adelson the best head as someone who will do a fucking thing for anyone besides themselves, their donors, and their ideological dependents.

But more, much more than all that mere fluff and folderol, I fucking hate with a white-hot passion anyone who thinks they can and should turn an honest buck by "raising" such idiotic "questions" about Hillary Clinton's impending grandmother-dom in the guise of honest gumshoe journamalism. Such people should be ignored immediately and permanently, until they land in the l'enfer c'est les autres cauldron of shit that is E! News.

All Poodles Are Dogs, But Not All Dogs Are Poodles

I've seen Ayaan Hirsi Ali in a number of interview and panel segments over the years, and I get where this writer is coming from, in that Hirsi Ali is one of the more caustic critics of Islam in general, and militant Islamists in particular. I suppose having one's clitoris forcibly removed, and having a friend murdered in the street, with a death threat to oneself attached to said murder victim, will sort of do that to a person.

That said, it is a crude comparison at best to categorize the collective lumping of over a billion individuals in with the few thousand most violent practitioners, with anti-Semitic or anti-gay criticisms. It shouldn't even need to be said that, while perhaps Jews and gays no longer face the horrors of genocide or systematic violence, it really hasn't been all that long since they did face those things (and in fact still do in many countries -- how are gays faring these days in, say, Uganda or Iran?).

It is not fair to insinuate that all Muslims are responsible for the actions of a small but virulent percentage of lunatics, but when seemingly nothing at all is said or done in that regard, it doesn't absolve them from any responsibility whatsoever to address the issue. The experiences Hirsi Ali has endured in her life, both from outdated "cultural" traditions and from ideological fanatics, are real, and for many areas in the world, still normative. I mean, ten bucks to the first person who can guess the religion of the folks behind this, or this.

I don't know what to make of people who emigrate to other countries that already have long-established legal systems, and expect those new places to conform to the female-hating third-world holes they left behind. It can be difficult to parse cultural norms from religious precepts in many instances, but uh, I can assure you that as a decadent, hedonistic westerner, I am a great deal more offended by the consistent treatment of women as illiterate chattel, than they are by a satirical drawing of the prophet (PBUH). But since I am a rational person, and not guided and goaded by this or that collection of Levantine folk tales and regressive sky-buddy whispering, I can fight their bad ideas with better ideas, and still express my resentment at my own gubmint thinking that it can and should handle the situation with a fleet of killbots raining hell on villages. Some of these folks seem not to have made that seemingly modest intemellectual leap.

It might be more productive for concerned Muslims to address the fanatics in their attic already, instead of raising false equivalences about what sort of speech is offensive, as if the typical respective reactions to being offended were remotely the same -- someone maybe losing their job for talking shit about Jews or gays, versus riots and violence over comic strips and movies.

Off-topic but still fun, given the post title:  the one and only Ken Ham discourses on poodles.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

It's Not a Bug, It's a Feature

The latest and greatest from the most transparent administration evar:
This week, it came to light that a small error in the open-source OpenSSL implementation of the SSL encryption protocol opened a gaping hole in the security of hundreds of thousands websites and networking equipment across the Net—and that hole had been wide open and exploitable for years. Passwords could be easily grabbed. User names matching those passwords could be easily grabbed. Heck, userdata could be easily grabbed. The “Heartbleed” moniker attached to the devastating bug seemed all too apt.

And Friday afternoon, Bloomberg reported that the National Security Agency has been aware of and actively exploiting the Heartbleed bug for at least two full years, citing “two people familiar with the matter.”

....

Leaked NSA documents provided to reporters by Snowden have revealed an agency casting a wide—and often domestic—surveillance dragnet, spying on American emails and web searches, gobbling up metadata from smartphones en masse, and even tapping into the internal communication infrastructures of Internet giants like Yahoo and Google.

A September Snowden-supplied revelation revealed that the NSA can easily defeat many of today’s encryption technologies, and in an aside that now seems precognizant, the SSL protocol was then rumored to be a particular favored target for the Agency.
Keep that in mind as you're "choosing" between Candidate Coke and Candidate Pepsi.

Offensensitivity

Perhaps because the majority of the country has changed so much and so quickly on the issue, "gay marriage" is developing a set of meta-issues, and rather absurd ones at that. Now the question is longer whether discriminating against gay couples bears the same nasty whiff that discriminating against interracial couples did 40-50 years ago.

The most recent and persistent epiphenomenon is the martyrdom meme, perhaps best characterized in the self-imposed travails of Duck Dynasty honcho Phil Robertson and Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, the latter who was forced to resign for his contribution to California's Proposition 8 campaign back in 2008. So now Conor Friedersdorf's correspondent seems to epitomize the sort of person who feels aggrieved at whatever chilling effect is supposed to have taken place, as far as "allowing" what the aggrieved feel is legitimate difference of opinion.

And so it is, to a certain extent. Ostensibly, one of the great strengths of this country is that everyone has the right to be wrong, and even to be an asshole about it, so long as said opinion picks no pockets and breaks no arms. And that's where the problem arises, since in more than half of US states, you can be fired just for being gay in the first place, forget trying for a supposedly meaningless equal right to get married.

Nothing in life is absolute, and this applies to the Bill of Rights as well; you can't yell "fire" in a crowded theater, and you can't bring an assault rifle into a courthouse. There are balances that are struck all along the way in these sorts of debates, and hey guess what -- the First Amendment doesn't apply to companies and places of work. You can be an asshole, and other people can call you such. That's how it works.

That means that you can -- and should -- be fired from your job if you, say, host a website that advocates race war or features the crushing of small animals for the amusement of fucking creeps, even if such things happen not to be against the law (inexplicably, in the latter instance). You can, in fact, be fired from your job just for saying something impolitic, if your boss happens to feel that said speech costs the company sales and revenue. This is not exactly a secret or a surprise, and yet here you have grown-ass adults genuinely shocked that their sincerely, deeply held spiritual beliefs do not automatically grant them immunity from the consequences of discourse.

That's at least part of the reason why so many of us choose to blog in relative anonymity -- not to completely absolve ourselves from any and all consequences of what we might say out here on the internets, but because we are aware that even if we say something that is logical and accurate, we can still be held liable for it, if it has an adverse (or even a potential or perceived) impact on any organization we might be part of.

This particular issue is an opportunity to examine the idea that one's beliefs, no matter how sincere, do not automatically immunize them from participating in the same verbal scrum as the rest of us. I promise you, the small hint of opprobrium, of "hate" and "fear" as the CF correspondent put it, is a drop in the bucket compared to what "outsider" groups have felt even in the last generation or two, from gays to atheists to civil rights and antiwar protesters.

I think those folks and many others would find the idea hilarious, that someone could say something they have a pretty good idea will hit a significant portion of people the wrong way, and still expect to be exempt from even legitimate criticism (as opposed to, you know, the discrimination and violence that many dissenting groups have routinely faced). It may not be 100% "fair" to ostracize or fire someone for voicing the "wrong" opinion, but it is also not the duty of the rest of society to wait around for these people to start unpacking their ideological baggage, and letting it go, once and for all.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Poetry Corner

Apropos of very little, check out the verses of inspiration from one of Edroso's commenters. That's just awesome right there.

Blast from the Past

In combing through nearly a full decade of posts to assemble a decent compilation of the antics that have transpired here, I'm finding a lot of past nuggets that are worth resurrecting. So call it "Throwback Thursday" or whatever, but here is the first what will be a weekly (or so) revisiting of a classic post.


Atlas Smugged

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Kiss of Debt

The band Kiss (or, as The Army would have it, KISS) occupy a rather odd place in my musician's psyche. During their prime, I never really understood the appeal, comic-book splashes of fake fire and fake blood over cheesy chord progressions and thinly veiled cock rock.

Then they fell for the disco schtick, and even produced a poorly-received concept album, well after the whole "concept album" idea was dead and buried. Too bad, so sad. The smart kids had moved on to Rush, who somewhat ironically had gotten their big break as the opening act on one of Kiss' tour legs at their commercial height.

But as I got into actually playing in front of crowds, seeing what they wanted and what they tended to be attuned to, the whole cheesy package started to make more sense. Every band sells out to some degree, and even total sellouts such as Kiss still had points where they wanted to flex nuts and show chops and such.

Enter Vinnie Vincent, one of the more contentious, prickly folks to inject himself into what is (you'll be surprised to find) a rather people-oriented business. As a kid in the early '80s with a voracious appetite for any and all types of music, and a fairly photographic memory for notable quotes and quirky tics, to me Vincent stood out as the sort of person who seemed to be on a mission to make the blustery wunderkind Yngwie Malmsteen look quiet and contemplative.

As you can see from the embedded solo video from the RS article, Vincent's playing falls under the classic proto-shred grouping of jizz-lobbing, monkey-spanking speed dabblers, who had never heard of "taste" and barely bothered with tone, thinking that some distortion and a furious flapping of fingers would compensate for a lack of imagination and musicality. It's the sort of stuff that made This is Spinal Tap so true to life. At least Malmsteen actually had considerable tone, taste, and melodic sensibility to back up his arrogant demeanor.

Hair metal actually progressed pretty quickly along that decade, in terms of musicianship -- on the one hand, you had shredders like Paul Gilbert, Nuno Bettencourt, and Vito Bratta throwing down innovative, technically proficient melodies; on the other, you had "feel" players like Slash and Mick Mars, who were really great players in the mold of Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, but overshadowed by the singers they worked with, and the drama of their bands. I can give you a list of great players from that era, makeup and all, but personally, Vincent would not be on that list. He was a dick in interviews, deliberately so, and again his playing was just a random flurry, a buzzing hive of bees.

Still, musical criticism aside, Vincent's story since getting kicked out of Kiss is interesting, weird, sad, almost poignant.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Teaching Americans Geography

From the WaPo Monkey Cage:
On March 28-31, 2014, we asked a national sample of 2,066 Americans (fielded via Survey Sampling International Inc. (SSI), what action they wanted the U.S. to take in Ukraine, but with a twist: In addition to measuring standard demographic characteristics and general foreign policy attitudes, we also asked our survey respondents to locate Ukraine on a map as part of a larger, ongoing project to study foreign policy knowledge. We wanted to see where Americans think Ukraine is and to learn if this knowledge (or lack thereof) is related to their foreign policy views. We found that only one out of six Americans can find Ukraine on a map, and that this lack of knowledge is related to preferences: The farther their guesses were from Ukraine’s actual location, the more they wanted the U.S.  to intervene with military force.

When we talk about things that are literally impossible to parody, and are really just too pathetic to contemplate, this is what we're referring to. But it explains a lot.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right

You know, I get what Steve is saying here, and to some extent I actually agree. But goddamn, at some point the truly librul animals have to by god rear up on their hind legs and demand a genuinely transformative figure, rather than one that merely put on a good show of it on the campaign trail (such as Obama), not to mention a neocon warmonger whose only redeeming trait is that she's not quite part of whatever wretched clown car the Adelson wing of the Privilege party will put together in about 18 months.

In other words, if you want something better, you are going to have to insist on it and fight for it. The self-congratulatory rear-guard rhetorical volleys against the (barely existent) micro-claque of bien pensant pwoggies and Naderista holdouts will do fuck-all in the creeping face of corporate fascism. Citizens United opened the floodgates, and McCutcheon will prop them open -- by 2020, probably well before then, "Democrats" and "Republicans" will be replaced in all but name with more accurate Game of Thrones-sounding terms such as "Sorosians" and "Adelsonians."

This is not schtick, folks, this is fact. Winter has been coming for quite some time, and now it is here with a vengeance. The notion that Obama might give more of a shit than John Boehner or Ted Cruz is useless if nothing gets done in that regard, beyond the usual hand-wringing and cheap DFH-punching.

I mean, what does Hillary being "our best shot" entail, really, a face that's slightly less red in tooth and maw for the remainder of the working class? "Our best shot" at what, and who is the implied we in the word our, anyway? Only the very rich and the very poor have any real representation at this point; everyone else is simply a milch cow for the partaking thereof. People vote Democrat at this point because they think the ongoing predation will be held in at least slight abeyance. The chickens are still voting for Colonel Sanders, mind you; they're just getting a day or so reprieve from their inevitable fate.

These fuckers want your soul, and it's really up to you whether you deed it over to them or not. At least in the past, politics was somewhat transactional; you give me your loyalty and I'll make sure your job stays intact. Now it's more along the line of "give me your first-born and maybe I won't donkey-punch what's left of your job, your town, and your pension fund, because the other guy is even more of a sociopath." So what do we (to the extent that there is a "we" anymore, kemosabe) proles propose to do about any (much less all) of this?

Pissing away precious time and energy rallying against this or that random idiot who says something impolitic about gay people seems a poor substitute for taking back what's left of one's country. On the other hand, as I've been saying, Costa Rica seems quite nice.

#raceforbutthurt

Three things worthy of note this past week, that perhaps aptly characterize the scope and extent of putatively librul activism.

One is the high-tech mau-mauing of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich. One of Eich's misfortunes is that he bears an eerie resemblance to a Despicable Me minion; the other is that he contributed $1000 of his own money to the repulsive (and ultimately repudiated) Proposition 8 referendum in 2008, to ban gay marriage in California.

Second is the #CancelColbert Twitter campaign launched against well-known satirist Stephen Colbert. Colbert's deliberately obnoxious and offensive (and, for that matter, rather outdated) sendup of Asian stereotypes, straight out of Mickey Rooney's Breakfast at Tiffany's praybook, rankled a college student with more time than sense on her hands. Hilarity, as it is wont to do, ensued.

Finally, the recent Supreme Court decision to openly legitimize what any sentient observer already knew -- that there is gambling going on at the casino, and rich assholes own and run the political system for their own benefit -- ruffled the Thanksralphers feathers one more blessed time, like a random breeze blowing up their skirts. Fourteen years later and the wound is no less fresh for them.

One tough guy suggested that said decision be branded into the forehead of everyone who voted for Big Bad Ralph way back when. Because everyfuckingthing that has transpired this benighted new millennium, from 9/11 to the Democrats' spineless acquiescence in the Iraq War to the heartbreak of psoriasis, sprang forth from the font of Nader's malignant narcissism.

To which I say, one, bring it, motherfucker, soon as you get your extra-chinned self away from I Can Haz Cheezburger, but you should probably pack a lunch; two, you have a hell of a lot of branding to do, since (repeat after me ad nauseam) almost thirteen times as many registered Democrats in Florida voted for Bush than for Nader. Logic would stipulate that even if one construed a vote for Nader as an indirect vote for Bush (it wasn't), surely only a burbling halfwit could misunderstand that a vote for Bush was a direct vote for Bush. Funny how they never ever break out the pitchforks for that one. There's a clue in that somewhere.

But more to their feeble point:  It wasn't Nader's fault that Gore was such a shit candidate he couldn't even win his own home state. Nor was it Nader's fault that, when push came to shove and Florida's dangling chads were hotly contested, Gore decided to demand a recount he thought he'd win (rather than one he probably would have won), and then conceded anyway.

And let's not forget what a soulless ratfucker Holy Joe Lieberman turned out to be. Still better than Dick Cheney, but that's like saying that chlamydia is "better" than syphilis. The endless whinging does not change the stone fact that the Democrats' manifest failures cannot all -- or even much -- be laid at the feet of Ralph Nader. True story.

But let's not rehash the epic travails and endless, heroic quests of the N8r b8rz any more than we have to. Let's look at the larger picture here. The outbursts over Eich, Colbert, the McCutcheon decision, what do they all have in common? An utter lack of focus and perspective, for one. Say what you will about the stupid conservatool outbursts over idiotic things such as Chick-Fil-A and Duck Dynasty, the fact is that when they want to, those fuckers mobilize. It's silly shit, but they show up anyway, at least at first, and at least enough to get picked up and noticed in the lamestream media they so roundly despise.

Certainly Brendan Eich stepped on his own dick by failing to explain himself sufficiently when he had the chance, lamely claiming that he didn't want to be pushed by activists into having to delve into his private political sentiments. But by all accounts, Mozilla runs a pretty clean shop, as far as equal treatment for gays is concerned. Also, too, they won, supporters of gay marriage, and rightly so. The country is coming to its senses on this issue, and will be the better for it. It's not as if Eich played the part of Bull Connor or Lester Maddox, handing out ax handles to thump every hommasekshul in sight. It was a thousand bucks, six years ago.

I submit that if one were of liberal sentiment and potent influence on these here internets, and one wanted to get the most bang for their ideological buck, as it were, one might choose different targets. Targets that matter, for starters. Where are the concerted hashtag efforts to push congress-critters into making corporations pay taxes; where are the #CancelAdelson or #CancelKoch campaigns, with nice laundry lists of the things those assholes own and sell (aside from, you know, people and influence) so that like-minded folks can, como se dice, boycott those motherfuckers?

No. Let's go after some techie slapdick, let's go after Stephen Colbert, let's go through yet another round of urban wailing over Ralph Nader's capital transgressions in the previous millennium. Good grief, from climate change to income inequality to poaching to overpopulation to the oppression of women and the trafficking of children to the open theft of this country's political system, there are a multitude of issues over which one can get one's panties into a death-dealing wad. Yet these other non-issues are the things they choose to get jiggy with, and over.

I'm embarrassed for these people, since they don't have the good sense to be ashamed of themselves. All that righteous anger and technical expertise could and should be harnessed to a team of Clydesdales, instead it's tethered to a yappy, ankle-biting Chihuahua.

[Update 4/7/14: Also, too.